When Who You Are Challenges the Status Quo

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A_Bev-750I was my mother’s difficult child—the non-conforming one, the kid who never followed the pattern. There’s just something about me that hates having to corset my heart and Botox my personality in order to fit what’s expected. It’s not that I want to be different, particularly; it’s just that I don’t want to have to expend all that energy on not being different in order to satisfy the powers that be around me.

That streak of stubborness has gotten me into quite a bit of trouble here and there over the years, quite specifically when Rick and I began to lead our first church (and even since, although I don’t notice the reactions so much nowadays). I knew from my previous leaders and the sphere I lived within that women couldn’t preach or lead within the church, but I had this ability to make difficult things about life and doctrine simple for people to understand.

I was always trying to tread the line between what was preaching and what was just sharing, what was teaching and what was encouragement. It’s tough when your enculturation is so entrenched that your mind can’t understand what your heart knows full well.

On top of that, I noticed that there was a “game” that was often played in church. Who is seen with whom, and who is in favour with whom, and who could be counted on to always say the right thing rather than challenge the status quo. I felt pressure to play the game, be seen with the right people, be heard saying the right things, put a muzzle on anything that might be seen as thinking for myself, and generally experience what it is to bask in the reflected glory of whomever was the flavour of the month.

But you know… I just couldn’t do it. The enormous amount of energy required to push and pull all the odd bits of my personality so I fit in just didn’t ring true for me. I watched, first up close and personal, and then gradually at more of a distance, as many of my peers turned mental and emotional somersaults to belong to the In Crowd. It just seemed to me to take too much away from them. In that context, belonging took more than it gave.

The Bible says the fear of man is a trap. I think of the cruel jaws of the traps that are set for foxes and rabbits and other free creatures. When an animal is caught in a trap, it will often gnaw its own leg off in order to escape. Death is inevitable either way. It seems to me that our desperation to earn the approval of other people is like that. We get caught by our deep need for acceptance and parts of our character and personality become surplus to requirements in the context of the group we need to impress, so we start amputating bits of ourselves in order to be acceptable to them … and slowly our uniqueness dies … the bleeding away of what makes me me, and the tearing off of those things that reflect the image of our God.

Do you know, I think that if you have to be the same as everyone else in order to fit in, you’re better off not fitting in. It may seem unthinkable at first, but I agree with what the author Lisa Alther said:

The risk you take if you change is that people you’ve been involved with won’t like the new you. But other people will come along who do.

Authenticity is truthfulness at the very heart of who we are.

 It’s not just truthfulness to ourselves and to our sphere of influence, but more importantly, it’s truthfulness to the image of God we were created to reflect.

Nothing else satisfies like being an authentic Creation.

Nothing else brings glory to God like remaining true to God’s design.

_________________

Image credit: neonove

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Bev Murrill

Bev Murrill

Bev’s mandate to mentor and commission leaders streams effectively into her desire to teach people the the fullness of what God designed them to do. A native Aussie, Bev has ministered in the UK for almost two decades, but speaks in conferences and leadership settings across the world. Mentoring women in leadership holds a specific place in her heart and she feels keenly the need to make sure that gender is never a reason to disqualify a person from the call of God on their life. For this purpose, her most recent initiative is KYRIA, a network of Christian women leaders to provide support, encouragement and friendship among Christian women who are called to lead in the Church or in business. Bev is the author of two books - Speak Life and Shut the Hell Up, and Catalysts: You Can be God’s Agent for Change and has a few more in the pipeline. In 2001 she founded Liberti, a magazine based in the UK for Christian women who want faith with attitude. She lives in the passionate conviction that Christians are seeded into their cultures in order to take the Kingdom of Heaven into every sphere of influence. Rick and Bev have been married for 42 years, all of them great, but not all of them wonderful. They have four married children and nine grandchildren.
Bev Murrill

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Bev Murrill
  • HBurns

    Brilliant! Incredibly brilliant Bev!

    I will be chewing on these words for awhile..’It seems to me that our desperation to earn the approval of other people is like that. We get caught by our deep need for acceptance and parts of our character and personality become surplus to requirements in the context of the group we need to impress, so we start amputating bits of ourselves in order to be acceptable to them … and slowly our uniqueness dies … the bleeding away of what makes me me, and the tearing off of those things that reflect the image of our God.’ WOW!

    I love that you were your Mothers ‘difficult child’ and that you decided to be you and now share with the world how we can do that too.

    I have much love and appreciation for you Bev!

    xoxo

    • Bev Murrill

      Do you know, I only just saw this… and it was 2 years ago. Thanks for your loving response, Helene… so encouraging. (this came up on my facebook feed for two years ago, which is why I saw it now)

  • Bev Murrill

    Aahhhh… thanks Helen. This is a lovely message to read from you just before I go to bed. You are such an encouragement.

    And maybe I’m an encouragement to all the mothers out there with difficult children… and to those who were/are the difficult children. There is hope! His name is Jesus!

  • Love this. Preach and teach on!

    • Bev Murrill

      Oh, thanks so much Debby. xx

  • Yvonne

    I love this. Maybe because it speaks to where I am at. Though I was perhaps the opposite of the difficult child I still felt and feel the pressures to conform to other expectations of me. The trap of that, as you articulate with the picture of the animal trap, is very painful & can lead to death in areas of ourselves. I praise God for you being ‘difficult’ and able to lead me, & many others, to be freed to be ourselves, the way we are & not what we are expected to be. Thank you Bev.

    • Bev Murrill

      Oh Lovely, Yvonne… yes, it doesn’t matter whether we were ‘good’ or ‘difficult’… we all have pressure to conform and we just deal with it in different ways. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  • Sandy Hay

    I was also my father’s most difficult child. Even until he died, he wanted me to fit in to his mold. I struggled with this for YEARS but then one day God finally got my attention. Don’t get me wrong there are still times when it rears it’s ugly head. Now I know who I am in Christ. There is no better position.

    • Bev Murrill

      You’re right! NO BETTER POSITION than to know who you are because you know WHOSE you are! You’re such a blessing, Sandy! x

    • Bev Murrill

      It’s interesting that you said ‘father’s’ and I said ‘mother’s’ most difficult child… and yet, I was very difficult for both of them, as I guess you were for both of them too. I think I said ‘mother’s’ because my dad was pretty removed but mum was always there.

  • Saskia Wishart

    I can so relate to being the stubborn one Bev! And to getting caught in the fear of man trap. Ohhh how I wish being authentic was the thing that came naturally and not something we have to choose for. It seems easier in the short-term to change ourselves to fit, but as you pointed out, in the long-term it just costs too much energy!

    • Bev Murrill

      You’re so right, Saskia. And it’s so not the easier way, but it’s about getting free and staying free to be who you were created to be! Anything else isn’t worth the energy! xx

  • Jemelene

    It’s like you read my mind and then articulated it so much better than I ever could! This is me! Thank you for writing this!

    • Bev Murrill

      Oh that’s cool, Jemelene… thanks so much for the encouragement. x

  • DJ Brown

    Thanks for this, Bev – you and me both. My big brother, AKA golden boy preacher, called it being a “rebel” whenever I disagreed with the authorities that insisted on a restricted view of Christian women. Breaking free did feel a lot like “gnawing off my own leg”. I remember once, long ago, when I spoke up against the exclusive use of the word “Brothers” one lovely and godly woman sweetly commented, “But I like being called a brother”. How we need to encourage each other, girls, boys, women and men to be the unique divine art piece we each are, instead of some twisted, shrunken version of God’s original design.

    • Bev Murrill

      Chuckle… oh, don’t I know it! You sure have encouraged me, so it’s working! x

  • Anne-Marie

    Hi Bev, so many different things to think on here. I’ve particularly been noticing the beauty queen effect you’re mentioning in church. Whether physically, doctrinally… The group thing seems to function everywhere. I’ve been stepping away from that, but I believe new things will come, and the old will return again, different. But it’s been painful to stand and wait in that gap. Finding the strength to be, and simply be, brings such freedom! But can scratch and bump along the way. Thanks for this and XOXO

    • Anne-Marie

      …and thanks for the midnight wishes! 🙂

      • Bev Murrill

        :+}} It wasn’t midnight for me! xx

    • Bev Murrill

      Yeah, I think the thing which brings the greatest pressure is that somehow we ‘want’ to fit in… and yet the price of losing who we are is so great. Some will pay it, some won’t. Not paying it doesn’t make you successful, but it sure does bring the ability to sleep at night. x

  • Julie-Anne Mauno

    “Nothing else satisfies like being an authentic Creation.

    Nothing else brings glory to God like remaining true to God’s design.”

    This revelation has been transforming my life! Beautiful, honest post! I could relate in many ways. <3

    • Bev Murrill

      Thanks Julie-Anne… authenticity has such power. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Monica

    Bev; I love this and am so grateful that women are choosing to break away, be authentic and be and become exactly who God created them to be. Personally I have to remind myself of the words God uses to describe who I am to Him because the world (family, employers, associates, friends and even the church) says otherwise. When I look back over my life, I realize I never fit in anywhere and as hard as that has been I understand that it has been preparation for how I am to live in and for Christ.

    This wanting to fit in and be who God has created us to be is difficult when you are told/taught that you need the church’s support and approval which is based on your works before men/women in the church. I know we must be careful in our teaching, preaching, etc., but if God has called us to speak and be the truth, then we don’t have a choice but to do His will. I know God has called me to educate, edify and encourage His daughters through their spiritual and life journeys and I know I cannot not do it.

    Fitting in can be nice for a while, but when I think of all that God is and has for me that no one can provide, I’d rather go with God. And if it means being alone, then that’s okay. But, from what I am seeing, there is a lot of company out there for those of us “rebels!”

    Monica

    • Bev Murrill

      And therein lies the rub: ‘and I know I cannot not do it’. Of course you can’t. If you could, you wouldn’t be fulfilling the great call of the great Lord on your great life (great in terms of its effect as you leave your legacy, not great as in comfortable).

      And of course, we fight the battle inside ourselves for such a long while, because fitting in is so … attractive. Who wants to be on the outside all the time? But in the end, we do find a place of belonging… just not the place we started out.

      • Monica

        Bev; Thank you for this!

  • Even though we’ve never met in person, I sense that you are who you say you are, authentic and real. It’s wonderful!

    • Bev Murrill

      Now that’s probably one of the highest compliments I’ve ever had… I want to be known as a person who is the same no matter what the circumstances and who the audience is. Thanks Michaela! xx

  • Mylene Crocquevieille

    I love this Bev, your words are so full of a freedom that I find releasing! I don’t understand though when you say “I was always trying to tread the line between what was preaching and what was just sharing, what was teaching and what was encouragement.” What is the difference between preaching and sharing and teaching and encouragement?

    • Bev Murrill

      Mylene, you are not in a context that has had to ask these questions, but in the ‘olden days’ some churches who wouldn’t allow women to preach, would allow them to ‘share’, and felt it was wrong for a woman to teach but were willing to let her bring a ‘word of encouragement’. So… in some contexts you could stand up there and ‘share’ as long as no one felt it crossed the line into preaching. And of course, that decision was very subjective… and depended on how much the congregation or the leader was willing to let a woman get away with!

      That’s why CGI is so clearly gender neutral… we just don’t play those games. If you’re called by God to do it… just do it.

      Thanks for reading.

  • Bev, thank you for sharing this. I lived that life in Church for years and years. I am now in a season of being amongst the ranks of those on the distant fringes of the church, trying to figure out how to actually be myself and still find a place within the church… It’s always so encouraging to find someone else who not only recognizes that battle but challenges us to realize the truth.

    • Bev Murrill

      That’s cool… it takes a while… even years, to work it all out, but as long as we keep pushing, we find the freedom we were born for.

  • pastordt

    Oh, PREACH IT, my sister. Well done, Bev. So, so true. I do believe this is at the heart of the Christian discipleship journey – becoming who we are, and encouraging all we meet to become who they are, as well. Thanks so much for these great words.

    • Bev Murrill

      Thanks Diane… I appreciate your encouragement. xx

  • So so thankful you’ve chosen to forge your own + authentic path. Yes, yes, yes.

    • Bev Murrill

      Thanks Idelette! Like attracts like. x

  • See I had a strange experience of church life growing up, and still do to an extent… The model of church that I grew up in (a long period of musical worship followed by sitting and listening for 45mins- an hour) suited me just fine, and I could fit right in with it. However it really didn’t work for the people I was closest friends with, and so I often found myself as the odd one out amongst the oddballs. That’s a challenge: how to find new ways to make expression of faith meaningful to people when the established ones work so well for yourself? Even now I find myself holding back in worship sometimes because I know people for whom that situation would be difficult.

    As for the ‘politics’ of who you’re seen with and what you’re agreeing with week by week- life is exhausting enough, I don’t have the energy for that kind of thing by Sunday! For similar reasons to those above I’m slow to jump onto bandwagons wholeheartedly but then sometimes I have to swallow my pride and admit that they were right all along… I think I have a quiet stubborn streak that generally stays off the radar when I’m not conforming.

    Wow, that’s quite a ramble! Just processing all of the things you’ve raised; thanks for making me think!

    • Bev Murrill

      And that’s what it’s meant to do… glad you’re such a deep thinker.

      I’m someone quick to jump on bandwagons… so that’s been important for me to not do it just because it’s there.

  • elizabeth quigg

    very very good … like Rick said you live what you write. Xx

    • Bev Murrill

      Thanks Lizz.

  • I am 40 something but only realised recently that I have spent my life trying to fit in. But I did it authentically, if that makes sense. I actually assimilated, morphed, became the person I thought I should be to survive in each environment. So it’s rather fun at this late stage to realise I don’t need to be doing that and to be asking the question, who am I really? Who am I, that God created me to be? Liberating. So much easier!

    • Bev Murrill

      Yep, I agree. And remember, I’m over 60, so it takes time, doesn’t it. I did the same as you… took ‘life’ to help me realise it wasn’t worth it.

  • Thanks for this take on authenticity, Bev. It seems in recent days it’s become synonymous with sharing our sin/brokenness/struggles instead of a more comprehensive view of being truthful about who we are — in ALL ways.

    • Bev Murrill

      Thanks Kirsten…Yep, I agree. Sharing our brokennesses is only part of the struggle to be authentic… sometimes it’s about being willing to walk alone, or kick our pride to death in order to be the person we were created to be. x

  • ” (I) hate having to corset my heart and Botox my personality in order to fit what’s expected.” // LOVE this about you.

    This is such great advice:

    The risk you take if you change is that people you’ve been involved with won’t like the new you. But other people will come along who do.

    #notetoself

    Love your wisdom (and all of YOU), Bev!

    • Bev Murrill

      xxx